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Wrestling with the Word, episode 18: Third Sunday of Easter, Year B (April 26, 2009) April 9, 2009

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Third Sunday of Easter

We expect the theme of resurrection to play a predominant role in the lessons for this Third Sunday of Easter, and indeed, it does. But there are other themes intertwined in some of the lessons that grow out of the announcement that God raised Jesus from the dead. The word “righteousness” appears in three of the passages, and the apostolic commission to be “witnesses” to the resurrection of Jesus occurs in two. We will explore in our discussions how God’s righteousness–and that of Jesus–calls and enables us to be righteous in our witnessing today.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 18: Third Sunday of Easter, Year B.


Psalm 4
This psalm contains most of the characteristics of a lament, the most common type in the Psalter. More specifically, this lament is part of an “incubation” in which the petitioner spends the night in the security and sanctuary of the temple, waiting for God to respond with help. The lament opens with the familiar cry to God to intervene into the dismal situation to save (see Ps. 3:7; 7:1, 6; 10:12 for just a few examples). The familiar lament words “how long” occur twice in verse 2. The suffering in this case, as in many other cases, is due to the presence of enemies who plot against the petitioner (see other examples at Ps. 3:4; 5:6; 7:6; 12:2; 22:6-8, 16-18; 26:4; 35:20). In verse 3, the psalmist places confidence in the Lord because God has the reputation of responding to such cries for help (see Ps. 6:8-9; 22:3-5; 69:33 and the narrative of Exod. 3:7-8). Rather boldly, according to verse 5, the psalmist instructs his enemies to offer “sacrifices of righteousness” (NRSV “right sacrifices”) so that they might place themselves under the righteousness of God. “Righteousness” in the Old Testament is a relational term. It often means an action that fulfills the obligations of a relationship (see Genesis 38:26). God’s righteousness takes the form of acts of salvation and deliverance out of the relationship that God has with Israel and indeed with the world. By offering sacrifices of righteousness, these enemies will act differently to the petitioner, even restore the honor of the one they are persecuting. Confident that the Lord will indeed hear this cry for help, the petitioner already feels joy (v. 7) and will spend the night in peace and safety (v. 8).


Acts 3:12-19
Addressing the people in Solomon’s Portico who rushed toward Peter and John when they had healed the man lame from birth, Peter announced that the name of Jesus, whom they rejected, had restored the man’s health, just as it can restore them to God.

The first eleven verses of the chapter describe the healing by Peter and John of the man lame from birth. The event occurred at the Beautiful Gate leading into the Temple precincts, the place where the man sat daily asking for alms. Peter commanded him to walk “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” and when he did, people ran to see the man clinging to Peter and John, now within Solomon’s Portico.

V. 12. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors”: The naming of God with these words recalls the self-introduction of God to Moses at the scene of the burning bush (Exod. 3:6). That God is the one who “glorified his servant Jesus,…”

Vss. 13-18. The names for Jesus: “his servant Jesus … the Holy and Righteous One … the Author of life … his Messiah”: The names range from subservience and mission (Isa. 42:1; 52:13; 53:11) to titles and attributes used for God (Lev. 19—26; Isa. 6:3) to the Davidic king who would rule over God’s kingdom (Psalm 2; 89, 110). “And by faith in his name, his name itself, has made this man strong…” The author of Luke-Acts uses the title for the Righteous One as a title for Jesus also at 7:52. At Acts 22:14 Paul uses the title in reporting his conversion. He writes that a man named Ananias restored his sight that he lost when the Risen Christ confronted him on the Damascus road. Then Ananias explained to Paul “The God of our ancestors appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to all people….”

V. 15. hon theos ēgeiren ek nekrōn hou hēmeis martyres esmen = “whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses”: That certain folks were eye witnesses of the resurrection, that is, seeing the Resurrected Lord, qualified them to be apostles who spoke with authority.

V. 18. “In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer”: Peter offers the reason that Christ died, namely as the fulfillment of God’s word through the prophets (compare with the statement of the Risen Christ at Luke 24:44-46; also 1 Cor. 15:3-4). The people merely acted out of ignorance.

V. 19. metanoēsate oun = “repent therefore”: The call to repentance follows the announcement about the death and resurrection of Jesus according to the scriptures also at Luke 24:47 and in Acts 2:38. It is consistent with Jesus’ announcement that the kingdom of God has come near (Mark 1:15).


1 John 3:1-7
On the basis of God’s unmerited love, we already have our identity as God’s children, even as we wait to become like Christ, and we are called to live accordingly.

The author has indicated to his readers they have the means to arm themselves against the antichrist: their faith in Christ and God’s promise of eternal life (2:18-25). He then encourages them to abide in Christ as the message Christ’s anointing of them abides in them (2:26-27). He further exhorts them to abide in Christ by pointing to the parousia (“when he appears”) at which time they will not be ashamed “at his coming” (2:28). The previous chapter then concludes, “If you know that he (Christ) is righteous, you may be sure that every one who does righteousness is born of him” (2:29).

Key Words
V. 1. potapēn agapēn = “what a size of love”: On the quantitative side, see the use of potapos at Mark 13:1 where the disciples are awed by the large stones from which the Temple is made. On the qualitative side, the love is agapē, that unmerited act of God that makes us God’s children.

V. 2. nun … oupō = “now … not yet”: For the contrast between what we have already received and what is still to come see Rom. 5:1-11 and 1 Cor. 2:9.

V. 2. ean phanerōthē homoioi autō esometha = “when he appears, we shall be like him”: The promised glory at the parousia occurs also at Rom. 8:17-19; Phil. 3:21; Col. 3:4.

V. 2. opsometha auton kathōs estin = “we shall see him as he is”: cf. 1 Cor. 13:12; see also 2 Cor. 3:18.

V. 5. hina tas hamartias arē = “in order to bear away sins”: In v. 8 the purpose of Christ’s coming was to “destroy the works of the devil.” As for this reference, the bearing away of sins sounds like the function of the suffering servant at Isa. 53:4-5, 11-12.

V. 7. ho poiōn dikaiosynēn dikaios estin, kathōs ekeinos dikaios estin = “Every one who does righteousness is righteous, just as he is righteous”: The allusion to Isaiah 53:11 is clear: “the righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” “Righteousness” is the act of the servant atoning for others through suffering. It is God’s righteousness that makes us righteous, that is, justifies us (see Rom. 3:25-26). Righteousness is the power of God, revealed in the gospel, that gives life (Rom. 1:16-17; see also 1 Peter 3:18). In 1 John 1:9, it is God who “will cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” that is, God’s righteousness will make us righteous. At 2:1-2 and here at 3:7, Jesus is righteous; by his righteousness he atones for our sins and will intercede for us. That we can “do righteousness” is only because we are “born of him” (2:29); we are born anew to be “children of God” (3:1).


Luke 24:36b-48
In the face of the disciples’ doubt, fear and disbelief, the Risen Christ instructs them about his suffering, resurrection, repentance and forgiveness as the fulfillment of Scripture and calls them to be witnesses of these things to all the nations.

Chapter 24 begins with the report of the empty tomb to the women who had traveled with Jesus in Galilee. Two apostles—Cleopas and anonymous–were met on the road to Emmaus by a “stranger” who explained to them that the women were to be believed because the suffering and resurrection of Christ is the fulfillment of “Moses and the prophets” (v. 26-27). The two apostles invited “the stranger” to stay with them, and in the breaking of bread, they recognized him as the Lord. Immediately they left for Jerusalem to tell the others who already knew that “the Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.” The report the two shared is the conversation alluded to in the opening words of verse 36. Our pericope bears many similarities to John 20:19-31 and seems, therefore, to be part of a fixed tradition in the early church (see also 1 Cor. 15:1ff.).

Key Words
V. 41. eti de apistountōn autōn apo tēs charas = “and while they still disbelieved for joy”: Only the author of Luke-Acts used this verb, although in other cases there is no joy connected with the lack of faith (Acts 19:9; 28:24).

V. 46. pathein ton christon = “the Messiah/Christ should suffer”: We search in vain for a prophecy about vicarious suffering on the part of the “anointed one.” The servant suffers, even vicariously (Isa, 53:4-5, 11). A prophet suffers vicariously (Ezek. 4:1-8) and laments his persecution from enemies (Jeremiah).

V. 46. anastēnai ek nekrōn tē tritē hēmera = “rise from the dead on the third day”: Only here and at 18:33; 24:7 is the indication that Jesus “rose on the third day.” More common is “raised on the third day” (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Luke 9:22; 1 Cor. 15:4; cf. also Acts 10:40). In the OT, only Hosea 6:2 speaks of someone being raised “on the third day,” but that usage is metaphorical rather than literal. Other interesting uses of “on the third day” are Gen. 22:4; Exod. 19:11; Lev. 7:17; Num. 19:12; 2 Kings 20:5, 8.

V. 47. eis panta ta ethnē = “to all nations”: The same expression occurs in reference to preaching the gospel at Matt. 24:14 and Mark 13:10. “All nations” here and elsewhere represents the universal claim of God on the creation: elsewhere in Luke—Acts, Luke 12:30; Acts 14:16; 15:17; in addition, see Ps. 67:2; 117:1; Isa. 66:18; Jer. 3:17; Hab. 2:5; Matt. 28:19; Rev. 15:4.

V. 48. hymeis martures toutōn = “You are witnesses of these”: Note the use of witnesses in the “trial speeches” of Second Isa. (Isa. 43:10, 12; 44:8) in which Israel is called to testify on behalf of YHWH in the midst of claims of others to be gods; see also Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:37-43; 1 Thess. 2:10.